Weekly Brief 12 - March 20 2020

News 20 Mar 2020

This week's weekly brief features the latest coronavirus news with details on what the Government has promised small businesses

A wrap of the week's small business news from FSB's Westminster Press, Policy and Public Affairs Office. 

CORONAVIRUS HUB

The UK has ramped up its coronavirus response, with the Government closing schools and advising against mass gatherings, sporting events and going to restaurants and pubs. The Government is putting in place a raft of measures to support small firms, with further announcements expected at 5pm today.

Support, advice and in-depth information can be found on FSB's dedicated coronavirus hub.

What has the Government promised? 

Cashflow and loans

The Government has said it will support smaller firms through a new business interruption loan scheme, which will see the Treasury underwriting loans worth up to £5 million - interest free for the first six months - to those in need. These loans will be made available through your bank.   

Those facing financial issues as a result of coronavirus will also be entitled to a mortgage payment holiday of at least three months.

The Government is also supporting liquidity amongst large firms, enabling them to pay their small suppliers on time. 

Business rates and cash grants

The UK Government and devolved administrations have unveiled a swathe of additional business rates reliefs and associated cash grants to support those impacted by current disruption.

In England, all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will receive 100 per cent rates relief for the next twelve months - £25,000 cash grants will be available to those with rateable values of up to £51,000. For those in receipt of small business rates relief, grants of £10,000 will be issued by local authorities.   

Similar measures are being put in place across devolved administrations - full details available on our hub

Other measures

The Government has pledged to work with businesses to develop a new Employment Support Scheme, which will include measures to help small firms handle employment costs, thereby protecting jobs. We're expecting more details at Prime Minister's press conference this afternoon, and are calling on policymakers to ensure the scheme protects the self-employed. 

Pubs and restaurants have also seen a relaxation of regulations enabling them to switch to becoming takeaways without the need to apply to their councils for a change of use licence.

These measures build on those unveiled at last week's Budget - including a 14-day statutory sick pay rebate for employees impacted by coronavirus, expanded access to HMRC Time to Pay facilities and the creation of a £500 million hardship fund. 

LATEST ADVICE & OPPORTUNITIES

ACAS webinars

Employment support service ACAS is providing free webinars giving practical advice for employers to help manage the impact of coronavirus in the workplace. They will set out steps you can take to help reduce the spread of the virus and communicate with employees, as well as how to manage self-isolation, time off, sickness certification and sick pay, altering shift patterns and remote working. Register on the ACAS site.

Broadband USO

From today, anyone who receives an internet download speed of less than 10Mbps or an upload speed of less than 1Mbps will have the legal right to request a decent, affordable broadband connection from BT under the government's Universal Service Obligation (USO). Check the BT site to find out if you are eligible. 

Wage Increases

A reminder that wage increases are taking effect from 1 April 2020. The National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over will increase to £8.72 per hour, from £7.70 to £8.20 for 21 to 24 year olds and from £6.15 to £6.45 for 18 to 20 year olds. Make sure you check all relevant rates and update your pay roll to ensure your staff are paid correctly. For more information, see the official Government guidance.

New statutory, holiday and sick pay guidance

Also a reminder that Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) and Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) rates increase to £151.20 on 5 April 2020. The rate of statutory sick pay will also increase, from £94.25 to £95.85, on 6 April 2020. Elsewhere, from 6 April 2020, employers will have to use a reference period of 52 weeks, (instead of the current 12 weeks), when calculating statutory holiday pay for staff whose pay varies. For more information, check the Government's employer guide to thresholds and holiday pay.  

THE SMALL BIZ WEEK IN REVIEW

Monday

The week began with FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry appearing on BBC Breakfast alongside What More Ltd, a factory in Burnley. He explained how coronavirus is already having an impact on small businesses and the self-employed, and the measures we're calling for Government to deliver to mitigate that impact. 

The day ended with Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordering the public to stay away from pubs, theatres and restaurants to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission. He also advised anyone who can work from home to do so. 

Tuesday
Tuesday saw FSB'S Policy and Advocacy Chair Martin McTague discuss the impact of coronavirus on small business and the self-employed with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee at the House of Commons.

It also saw the Government pledge £350bn worth of measures to support firms impacted by coronavirus-linked disruption. FSB reaction to the intervention was covered by the Sun, City AM, Press Association, Mail Online and i newspaper.

Meanwhile, the Treasury suspended the Government's IR35 tax reforms for one year in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, as called for in FSB's Back to Business election manifesto. 

Wednesday
Wednesday saw Mike Cherry appear on BBC Breakfast once again, this time giving reaction to the Chancellor's newly unveiled measures, and urging larger companies to ensure they are paying their smaller suppliers on time.

Mike Cherry also took calls from listeners on BBC5Live and explained how FSB is calling for clarity from Government on the measures its introducing to support small firms affected by coronavirus. 

Mental Health First Aid England launched its My First Self campaign on Wednesday, supported by FSB, raising awareness about changing workplace culture. 

Thursday

Mike Cherry met the Chancellor Rishi Sunak to champion the need for urgent support for smaller firms, particularly those struggling to keep staff, as well as the self-employed now work is drying up. FSB is working with the Chancellor to develop a support package which protects jobs and pay. The meeting was covered by the Independent

Friday

The Chancellor is expected to unveil a fresh raft of measures to support small employers later this afternoon. 

FROM THE CORRIDORS OF POWER 

At the start of the week - FSB National Chair, Mike Cherry, participated in a call with the Prime Minister to discuss the Covid-19 outbreak and measures to mitigate its impact on small business.

Mike Cherry, National Chair, took part in a roundtable involving several other business group leaders and the TUC to discuss vital, immediate employment support measures. 

Martin McTague, FSB Chair of Policy and Advocacy, has participated in daily telephone conversations with BEIS Secretary Alok Sharm, to discuss the Covid-19 response and impact on small businesses, micro businesses, the self-employed and contractors.
  
Meanwhile, FSB Public Affairs are in contact with a large number of MPs, including the Opposition frontbench, Labour leadership candidate teams; and former Cabinet Ministers, to push what further measures the Government could be doing during this period of economic disruption.  

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